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Who needs guitars anyway?


Best Bits
Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Exciting Things

Robyn is finally back in the UK charts after a 9 year absense! And back in the top 10 for the first time in a decade, with the physical release still to come so a top 5 or no.1 is still in reach. It's amazing to think back to when I bought the cassette of Do You Really Want Me in 1998, when I could never have guessed that almost a decade later this wonderful Swedish lady would still be my favourite female singer in the whole world, despite having not had a single top 40 hit in the meantime. I still remember my first sighting of Robyn, on Top of the Pops singing Show Me Love in 1998, when my fandom was instant. It will be interesting to see if her second bout of UK fame lasts any longer. Is it even possible for a European singer to become a really major star in this country? I have my doubts as past examples aren't favourable, but of course I will be sticking by her to infinity and beyond!

Also making a comeback, except in this case they actually have been away, are the Backstreet Boys, whose new single Inconsolable has finally appeared on YouTube. Despite sharing the first four letters and being a ballad, it's not as good as Incomplete. It's nice but not powerful like all the great BSB tracks are. It's sad that the career of my favourite boyband may soon come to an end, only cos they had some strange falling out with Max Martin. Now they've seen what's happened to Kelly C after she too thought she could succeed without him, they must be quite scared. The backing music in the verses is really really similar to that of All She Wrote by Ross Copperman, but I expect this is just a coincidence. Hopefully there will be some gems on the album - I'll be buying it anyway, as my loyalties are far too strong not to.

Top of the Poptastic!

My favourite singles during July...

1. BWO - Save My Pride (yes it's old but somehow forgot it in previous months!!)
2. Darren Hayes - On the Verge of Something Wonderful
3. Danny - Play It For The Girls
4. Ola Svensson - Natalie
5. Groove Armada - Song 4 Mutya
6. Alphabeat - Fantastic 6
7. Girls Aloud - Sexy! No No No
8. Bat For Lashes - Prescilla
9. Ross Copperman - Found You
10. Remi Nicole - Go Mr Sunshine
11. Beyoncé - Green Light (Freemasons Mix)
12. Newton Faulkner - Dream Catch Me
13. Rihanna - Shut Up And Drive
14. CSS – Alcohol
15. Maia Hirasaw - Gothenburg
16. Mans Zelmerlow - Work of Art
17. The Revelations - Baby I Want You To Know
18. Natalie Imbruglia - Glorious
19. Shayne Ward – If That’s Ok With You
20. Sophie Ellis-Bextor - Today The Sun's On Us
21. Eve - Tambourine
22. Amy Winehouse - Tears Dry On Their Own
23. Ben's Brother - Let Me Out
24. Ghosts - Ghosts
25. Sean Kingston - Beautiful Girls
26. Freaks - The Creeps (Get On The Dancefloor)
27. Maps - You Don't Know Her Name
28. Republic of Loose - Break
29. Arcade Fire – No Cars Go
30. Monrose - Hot Summer

And there's more where that came from...

One of the reasons I still like buying CDs is that I love reading the credits in the sleeve. Having been an avid pop fan for about a decade now (I should really celebrate that sometime), I recognise many of the names that regularly appear and like to keep track of which songs share writers and producers so I can follow the progressions of my favourite writers, and compare their work to see how similar they are. It's also great once you find that some of your favourite tunes share a writer, as you can look up everything they've done and find lots of new favourite songs. So here for you are some of the hidden gems created by some of pop's most brilliant songwriters, which are often just as ace as the big hits.

Mikkel SE & Tor Hermansen: Stargate - Easier Said Than Done (Video)
Mikkel and Tor, as the production duo StarGate, have absolutely ruled the genre of r'n'b-pop throughout the 00s. Their credits range from Beautiful Liar and Too Little Too Late to Always Come Back To Your Love and S Club Party. Would you believe that the same people who penned Blood, Sweat and Tears for the boyband V also wrote most of Rihanna's new album? Towards the beginning of their career they attempted to launch a band in their name, and this single was released in the UK but sadly gained very little success, although I did recently hear it in a Brighton club!
See also: Mikaila - So In Love With Two

Karen Poole: Lene Nystrom - It's Your Duty (Video)
I followed Karen (who you may know as one of Alisha's Attic) religiously a few years ago as she gave us ace tracks such as Amy Studt's Misfit and Dannii Minogue's Put The Needle On It. She's been rather more quiet recently, with Beware of the Dog by Jamelia being the only single I know of her working on in 2006, and I had all but forgotten about her until suddenly her name came up again in conjunction with the new Groove Armada single, Song 4 Mutya. So she's back in the top 10 and does it with one of the absolute best pop singles of 2007 - hooray!
See also: Rachel Stevens - Fools (in the good old days of TV miming!)

Max Martin: Marion Raven - Break You (Video)
If any of you don't know by now who this man is then you should be severely reprimanded for not paying attention properly! Max Martin is the king of pop songwriting, creator of Baby One More Time and I Want It That Way - I could go on but I think those 2 are enough to explain his importance. In recent years he's gone for a more rocky sound, producing great songs for Kelly Clarkson, Backstreet Boys, the Veronicas etc. My absolute favourite of his rock-pop songs is this one, a powerful angst-ridden brawl of a song, exploding with emotion, and showing perfectly the mix of hurt and cathartic strength you feel when betrayed by someone you love.
See also: Lambretta - Bimbo

Dr. Luke: Megan McCauley - Tap That (Clip)
Max Martin's regular writing partner Luke Gottwald has come into his own in the past few years and become just as sought-after, as he's brought huge hits for Avril Lavigne and P!nk. Megan McCauley was supposed to release this amazing single last year but it never took off and she gave up on it until recently when it was rumoured she may give it another try. This song is girl power in its finest form and brilliant to sing along to - why is it not a hit yet? In fact there's so much girl power in Luke's songs, I have to wonder if he secretly used to be a girl. Anything you want to tell us, Mr Gottwald?
See also: Ashley Parker Angel - I'm Better
Sunday, July 29, 2007

I knew I wasn't mad to like the new Shayne single!

It is written by Max Martin. Now all is clear. This is exciting not just because a new Max Martin song is coming out in the UK, but even more so because it suggests a return to pure pop music for our great Swedish lord of songwriting! His work of the last few years has been more rock-pop oriented, but this track combined with the news of his reunion with our beloved Britney, is an excellent sign for the pop music that's to come out of Sweden in the next few years. Hooray! But who will have the Since U Been Gone of this new era? Probably not Shayne, but I'm still excited to hear any other songs they've made together. While we wait, we can enjoy the hilarious(ly awful) dance routine in Shayne's new video.
Saturday, July 28, 2007

Dirrrty Pop Meets... The Tigerpicks!

You're about to play the V festival, so how do you plan to win over potential new fans who catch your set?
I don't think we've got any special tricks up our sleeves, we're just going to be ourselves and hopefully that and the music is enough to win people over. Hopefully.

What was it like working with Richard X?
He's such an amazing guy and he's a lot of fun to work with. We just had different ideas about the direction of the record, but we're still on speaking terms and will hopefully be seeing him sometime soon, cause we owe him a dolphin.



Have you got any more interesting collaborations planned?
Not that we know of. We're still kind of in the middle of doing our own thing and getting all that sorted so I'm not sure a collaboration would be the wisest move. Perhaps when we've settled down and found our niche and stuff, but we'll keep you posted.

Would you be upset if people compared you to Girls Aloud?
I wouldn't be upset, but I'd definitely be baffled. Girls Aloud are good at what they do, and they're probably one of the better pop bands around today, but we're completely different so it's difficult to compare. We write all of our own material, we play our instruments and we're pretty much in charge of what's going on in and around the band. The only similarity probably, is female vocals but then again, you're never going to compare Girls Aloud with say Yeah Yeah Yeahs. It's a different boat, and a completely different act.

Do you consider yourselves part of the 'nu rave' trend?
Not at all. We can understand why people would categorise us as that after hearing our first single, but we are definitely not 'nu-rave'. We make danceable music and because of this 'craze' that's going on at the moment, bands are being unfairly pigeon-holed. Bands that go back decades have been making danceable music. I think when people hear our album in context, they'll realise we aren't 'nu-rave' one bit, and never will be.



What will be your next single and what can we expect from the video?
We're still in talks about the next single and more specifically the video. We did our 'DIY' video last time, so you can expect something a lot more glossier and bigger. The good thing is we're all on the same wavelength, and we get a lot of say of what goes and what doesn't, so you can guarantee it'll be a video we're really happy about.

When did you get into 'disco punk electro funk' music?
I think we've always embraced it, but that age in your life (around 15/16) where you really start to come into your own, you decide what you like and you make a choice, and that's the choice we made. We love bands like Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Le Tigre, Ramones, Death From Above 1979 etc who just make amazing music with an energy that's difficult to come by and I think that's where it really stems from - making amazing music and putting on an equally immense show whilst you're at it.

International Video Challenge

Representing Australia: Natalie Imbruglia - Glorious
There's no big change of direction for Natalie here (apart from a new hair-cut which is very Amelie), but the song is catchy and enjoyable, so I don't think it matters. I think this is one of her best tracks actually. She'll retain the fans from her previous work and the song will get plenty of plays on Radio 2 and local radio, and I can imagine Rix FM in Sweden playing it til we never want to hear it again.


Representing Denmark: Infernal - Ten Miles
I must say I was quite surprised to see Infernal having another go at the UK charts, after the disinterest in Self Control and I Won't Be Crying made them a one hit wonder. However, I do think Ten Miles is a great song which could easily be a summer dance hit over here, especially if it does well abroad and lots of people hear it on their holidays. It could be the last nail in the Infernal coffin, or it may be their key to resurrection - but enough of the death-related metaphors, lets just enjoy the Scandi-pop on our TV screens, and the fact that Lina is looking much classier in this video.


September - Can't Get Over
Finally there's a video for the new September single! It's been on Rix FM for months already so it's about time. I really like the look of the video (although Petra's turning into Sarah Harding), with the oil concept being rather BWO-esque, and the song is great of course, although I don't think it's September's best - it's not quite Satellites, but maybe it's a We Can Do It or September All Over. It still deserves 5 globes. Her new album is, quite fittingly, out in September, and I'll be in Sweden to buy it straight away - hooray!
Friday, July 27, 2007

The European Invasion

It seems the teen-poppers (and rockers) of Europe have decided to make their moves on the UK charts - will they succeed? I think it could go any way.

Lucky Twice - Lucky (Video)
Although the video is delightfully cute, this song is just verging on insipid for me (although I much prefer the verses to the chorus) and since I have a very high tolerance of sweetness in pop music, I think a lot of people are going to absolutely despise this song. Still, that alone could get them noticed. The hints of naive homoeroticism could make them the coward's tATu, as well. I must say I've never been totally on board with this track, and I'll be a bit sad if it gains success while much better Swedish dance-pop songs such as Mambo and Satellites flopped miserably, but any Swedish pop on our TV screens has to be a good thing, so I won't complain.

Tokio Hotel - Ready, Set, Go (Video)
It's a sign of the times that in the 90s, German teenagers adored *N Sync and the BSBs, and a decade later it's this quite serious (despite their youth - the singer and his twin, the guitarist, are only 17 and were 11 when the band formed!) rock band who appear on the cover of Bravo. They began releasing German songs in 2005 and last month released their first English-language album, Scream, which features many English versions of their German hits. They sound to me most comparable to Linkin Park, but I'm no connoiseur of rock, as you know. I'll be interested to see if they are treated as a kids band or a serious rock band, since they are a bit older now, and there are so few media outlets for young teenage music fans, that they at least won't have their chances ruined by becoming regulars on the very much defunct TOTP Saturday.
Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Next Big Thing?

The Tigerpicks
If you're anything like me, you'll be instantly intrigued by this band when you see the next two words: Richard X. They're the latest act to be working with him, and with them also being referred to as the Mancunian CSS, there was little doubt from me that they'd be great. And sure enough, I'm a big fan already and I only started listening to them a few minutes ago! Their song Guerilla has a bridge which is extremely Girls Aloud, while Disco Punk Electro Funk is like Bis meets The Gossip and very danceable. The Tigerpicks are full of fun and I don't think there will be many Dirrrty Pop readers who won't fall in love with this group. They're also in the running for video of the year - amazing!!!
Hit Potential: 55% Poptasticness: 95%

Taken By Trees
I never really got into The Concretes, which is quite unprecedented for a popular Swedish indie-pop band, but I'm a bit more intrigued by what I've heard so far of the new project by ex-lead singer Victoria Bergsman. I heard the lovely Lost And Found by Taken By Trees on my latest favourite Radio 2 programme (in addition to Janice Long and of course Lauren Laverne when she sits in for Simon Mayo), that of Steve Lamacq, last night and was highly impressed, especially since despite the obvious difference in nationality, she sounds exactly like the singer of Camera Obscura, which is a very good thing indeed.
Hit Potential: 45% Poptasticness: 70%
Wednesday, July 25, 2007

New Pop On The Block

Cajun Dance Party - Amylase
This song is deceptive. I caught the end of it on the radio and quite liking it I jubilated at finally 'getting' Cajun Dance Party. Sadly it was still not to be, as I listened to the rest and the song revealed the full extent of its rubbishness. This band make me feel old, not just because they're younger than me, but because they are supposedly all the range with teenagers and I don't get it at all. Now I'm turning into someone who needs to ask younger people about new music trends in order to understand them, and I know from being that younger person that you can never really convey teenage musical reasoning, so this could be the beginning of me being shut out from that secret teenage knowledge for the rest of my life. I do turn 20 this year, after all...
23% Poptastic!

Sean Kingston - Beautiful Girls
I feel that I should hate this song (mostly cos the first time I heard it I thought it was the Black Eyed Peas) but instead I love it. It really is extremely catchy and summery. I'll never say it's a good song but it reminds me of lots of past novelty hits, it's completely got that feel to it and he's a suitably unlikely popstar (a rather chubby 17 year old). He's like a 2007 answer to Shaggy! I doubt that Sean is going to have a huge career - I expect he'll release an album, a follow-up single that sounds just like this with different lyrics, and slowly fade back into obscurity. Let's hope he does it with grace and doesn't embarrass himself on the way down. For now he should make the most of his success while it lasts.
78% Poptastic!
Wednesday, July 18, 2007

New Pop On The Block

Ross Copperman - Found You (Video)
I had previously stated that All She Wrote was as good as Ross would ever get, but this one's actually starting to really grow on me. I think it started when I realised how much it sounds like it should be a single by a Swedish Idol boy, although it's much more Erik Segerstedt than Darin or Danny. At least if Ross fails yet again to set the charts alight and take his place as James Blunt 2007, he can give this to Erik for his next album. Found You could actually be this year's What's Left Of Me - an at first underwhelming track a bit like Incomplete by BSBs that gets kind of brilliant after more listens.
84% Poptastic!

Ola Svensson - Natalie (Live)
Speaking of Swedish Idol boys, as I do always seem to be these days, here's another one releasing a supremely brilliant new single. He had a good ballad before called Rain but was generally a bit Westlife-y and dull. Now he's gone from one-man-Westlife to a one-man-Take That (think Relight My Fire, not Back For Good) and brought us an amazing summery pop song straight out of the late 90s. It's so much fun, completely frivolous and non-serious, as great pop songs should be. This is sure to be everywhere on Swedish pop radio this summer - if only we had a single like this for the UK to keep us cheery through the rain.
96% Poptastic!

Thoughts of the day

1. Is it true or false that as this article suggests, Terra Naomi's band includes Tyler Hilton, he of minor pop career and One Tree Hill wife-stealing?
2. The Robyn mystery is solved - WEH is now on the Radio 1 a-list and its reason for not being in the charts yet is cos it's not released til August. I forgot that songs can only get into the charts before their release if they're already downloadable, for example if the album is out, which Robyn's album IS, but strangely not on iTunes.
3. I must recommend a brilliant new Ali Love song I've heard called Rebound Lover, which he played alongside SSL and LNS on Janice Long's show on Radio 2 on Monday/Tuesday (the show starts at 12.30am), so you can find it 17 mins into this link.
4. I do really like that Amy McDonald single, even if I keep calling her Abby McDonald, who is in fact an ace blogger and not Sandi Thom part 2.

It's all me, me, me

Brandon from the hushhush ATTACK! music industry newsletter asked to interview me about blogging, so I thought I'd post my answers up here and invite you to send in your own questions for me if you have any - e-mail me at poptasticuk@hotmail.com or leave them in the comments box and I'll compile them in a future feature.

a) When did you start your blog
June 2003 - it's been going just over 4 years now!

b) Your background (past jobs etc)
Blogging is not my job (I don't make any money from it). I am currently a student of English Literature and I work in an office in the summer. At the moment I'm working for a legal recruitment company, but I probably won't continue this career path after university. I'm thinking of teaching English as a foreign language - any excuse to get out of England!

c) What is its primary focus / mission statement
"Who needs guitars anyway?" - it's about pop music and nothing else.

d) Artists you have supported prior to them "breaking"
Most of the new pop acts who've broken through during my time writing Dirrrty Pop have been featured on the blog before they became successful, for example Mika, Kate Nash and The Pipettes.

e) Current favorite artists
I'm From Barcelona, Rufus Wainwright, Patrick Wolf, Bodies Without Organs, Darren Hayes

f) Best way of sending you music / advice for bands sending tunes
I have no interest in music sent in to me by bands and it is highly unlikely I will ever feature it, mainly because the music I get sent is almost always awful and of no relevance to my site, so I rarely even listen to it. I like to find music for myself and if you're good enough to be on my blog you will find your way there eventually.

g) Your top 3 blogs
I hate to pick favourites but here are some I love: http://gaypop.blogspot.com http://alienhits.blogspot.com http://cureforbedbugs.blogspot.com
Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Popping The Question: Who Won The War On Indie?

I have been thinking about this a lot lately, as the charts have filled up with brilliant pop songs and one of the absolute best of the year has been no.1 for almost 10 weeks. We surely must have won! And I think we actually have, but a lot of people (as exemplified in this article) will not realise it. As long as we do, and enjoy it, I don't think it matters. Now I will explain...

There have been many cycles in the history of pop music (by which I mean music that sounds poppy, not music that is popular). It has been cool and uncool and usually both at the same time. I was a surprisingly rockist child, cheering when Take That split up and mocking friends for owning their cassettes, so my pop fandom began in the mid/late 90s with bands like the Spice Girls and Aqua, who were all the rage at my primary school. I started listening to the charts and watching Top Of The Pops, and one day in WhSmiths I decided I was bored of Girl Talk magazine and bought TOTP instead.

I loved it so much that a day later I bought Smash Hits too, and continued to buy both for about 4 years, until pop was brutally murdered by three boys who jumped up and down too much in 2002. The main attitude that reading these magazines at that time implanted in my head was "pop is great and indie is boring". Alice Deejay summed it up perfectly in their album title, Who Needs Guitars Anyway? It became my motto instantly and ever since.

Pop was hugely dominant in the charts and the media for the half-decade from the Spice Girls up until Pop Idol. The opposing attitude of authenticity and integrity never really went away, and fans of every genre other than pop relished the opportunity to grumble, but "pop" was such a buzz-word that one of the biggest bands in the world at this time named a song after it (and I in turn named this blog after that song). *NSync were proud to be pop... at least as long as their music kept on selling by the bucketload, even if their shameless declarations of poptasticness made them perhaps the most hated band on the planet.

I don't know enough about other areas of popular culture to know if the trend is universal, but it seems that when something becomes hugely popular and ubiquitous, as pop music did, people eventually get sick of it and need the antidote - the complete opposite. This meant that the years from 2002 to 2005 were very dark times. Every other genre tried to edge its way in and be that antidote, with the rock and indie acts grabbing every vulnerable teenager brought up on Steps and feeling the natural desire to distance themselves from what they loved as a child. What's the opposite of cheery, cheesy Steps? Angry rock and authentic indie. And so the silly children blindly ran from what they knew, unwittingly towards what those grumbling journalists had led them to believe was the real true quality music, while we pop fans clung on hopelessly to our dearest ex-S Clubbers and boyband wannabes, reminding ourselves that the opposite of credible is incredible. But it turned out we needn't have worried so much.

Another big thing was happening at this time: a technological revolution. The Internet and digital TV and radio meant that everyone had access to a limitless variety of music and musical styles. Whatever tickled your fancy, you could be its biggest fan and quite easily ignore whatever was in the charts and mainstream media. Simultaneously, MySpace and the ease of selling music online independently is handing over a huge portion of music buying from major labels to independent acts, many not even signed. This all means that the music bought has become much more diverse and far less concentrated on the top acts than it had previously ever been. This left the charts and mainstream media for the one thing that always wins - a great melody. And who provides those great melodies? Great pop bands!

Of course, it hasn't been quite that easy for pop to regain its throne. The biggest opposition has not been indie music in its original sense - in fact these days I would align myself more with a traditional indie attitude than a mainstream trend-following one, and many of my favourite bands (such as I'm From Barcelona and The Pipettes) merge indie attitudes with brilliant pop sounds. Instead what caused me most angst in the Dark Ages of pop (see above) was really bad music masquerading as pop and in fact indie.

Both popists and true indie kids had to put up with the term they'd always applied to their music being continually applied by dogmatic media opinion leaders to awful things. We had to deal with Crazy Frog, Westlife and the Noise Next Door (I'm upset just thinking of them!), while our indie cousins fell into even deeper depression as an indie revival was declared with Pete Doherty and Razorlight at the helm! In all our wallowing at the dismal failure of V and Rachel Stevens to reach their deserved no.1 spots, did we ever stop to think of those poor shoegazers who could never read an NME again.

Recently I have begun to think that the antidote theory may have reversed, and now that it's the guitar bands who are ubiquitous, people will be so swarmed by all the negativity in that music that they'll be desperate for some positivity. We've already seen it in the huge successes of the Scissor Sisters, High School Musical, The Feeling, Girls Aloud and Mika. Also lacking in indie music is any kind of good beat, hence dance music and upbeat r'n'b are very much in demand. Music journalists may be able to persuade punters to choose Fall Out Boy over the Backstreet Boys, but Britain can never be robbed of its party music - we are a nation of binge drinkers, after all. All this has collided with the 90s being long ago enough for us to feel nostalgic about it, and those who ran from Steps have suddenly remembered how much they always wanted to see Take That and the Spice Girls in concert. This fickleness greatly benefits us true pop fans!

So, it could be that pop is back as an antidote to authenticity and negativity, and I do think this is definitely a big factor in its revival, but I also am not sure we can talk about music in this sense of cycles and antidotes anymore, due to the aforementioned diversification (is that a word? sounds good anyway!) of music in general. Everything moves so fast and very few people's tastes reflect the overall state of music, so it's impossible to make generalisations about individuals, only about social groups and musical tribes (which certainly do still exist).

I love following the changes and trends in music, and will continue to do so and enjoy discussing it, but as that Guardian journalist's analysis shows when compared to my own, the diversification means that anyone can present the history of music as they know it in a way that suits their beliefs. Much like real history, our analyses tell more about ourselves than the real facts, but perhaps if enough intelligent people tell music history from their point of view, we can eventually piece together the whole picture.

Idolising

Recently I have bought three CDs by young men who made their names on the Swedish Idol series. None of the albums were quite up to the brilliance of their predecessor Darin Zanyar, but the output of male pop artists in Sweden is getting stronger (don't forget the ace hits this summer by Magnus Carlsson, Ola Svensson, E-Type and Markoolio), which is great and quite a rare pattern at the moment, with female acts usually outshining the boys in pop.

Måns Zelmerlöw - Stand By For...



He only came 5th in Idol 2005, but went on to have one of the biggest no.1 hit singles of 2007 after coming 3rd in Melodifestivalen with Cara Mia, one of my fave songs of this year so far. He's young too, having just turned 21, and is a great dancer, winner of the Swedish equivalent of Strictly Come Dancing! He was also recently named Sexiest Man in Sweden by a gay magazine, and I quite agree. Sadly nothing on the album is up to Cara Mia's amazingness, but that is quite a tall order, and there are plenty of good tracks - just a bit less disco-poppy than Cara Mia suggested.

Sebastian Karlsson - The Vintage Virgin



He beat Måns in Idol 2005, coming 2nd, but lost out in Melodifestivalen when his song When The Night Comes Falling placed 8th - still a very good position though for a hugely tough competition, and it was in fact the best song Sebastian had released yet. His sound is more rocky than the other boys, but he's no Elliot Minor, in fact not even a Busted. Probably more Ronan Keating in fact, but like Ronan he's got a few good tunes (and is successful, as this is his second album) and since we're not in Sweden it's OK to say we like them - just beware that if you say to a Swede that your fave rock singer is Sebastian, they may fall over laughing.

Danny Saucedo - Heart Beats



He placed 6th in Idol 2006, but his dance-pop singles Tokyo and Play It For The Girls (brilliant video!) have been huge hits, Tokyo reaching no.1 for two weeks, and the young Swedish girls adore him for his unusual Polish-Bolivian looks. The album was dancier than I expected, with most tracks being quite able to pass as a generic dance act rather than a post-Idol popper. None of the tracks are quite as brilliant as the singles but the CD is worth the money for the selection of above-average tracks such as Blue and Do Or Die. His sound works as a male equivalent to September and she didn't fully blossom until her second album, so I hope we'll see the same from Danny.

You can buy all of these albums on CD Wow for £9.99 each.
Monday, July 16, 2007

Dirrrty Pop Review: Latitude Festival

This weekend I went to my first proper festival, camping and all, Latitude Festival in sunny Suffolk. It really was sunny, despite there apparently being house-shaking thunderstorms where my mum was in Nottingham, so we were extremely lucky weather-wise, and this made the camping a far less terrifying prospect than expected. The festival is a bit more grown-up and cultural than many others, with as many bands for the Mojo-reading dads and Radio 2-loving mums as chart acts and upcoming indie-poppers for the teenagers. There were also many other ace things such as comedy, literary, poetry, cabaret and theatre tents, the literary one being my home between bands. Here are the bands I saw (some full sets, some just a few songs) with commentary where necessary or at least a mark out of 10:

Friday
Midlake - 3/10
Tinariwen - 5/10
Magic Numbers - 7/10 - very jolly
The Rumble Strips - 7/10 - only heard Motrocycle but it was good
Les Rita Mitsouko - 5/10 - very dull, only get points for being French
New Young Pony Club - 8/10 - The Bomb was ace and very Sounds-esque
Patrick Wolf - 10/10 - extremely energetic and didn't chat much, but it was a good Patrick gig cos the pushy kids weren't in such high attendance as usual and he even sang Umbrella!

Saturday
Passenger - 8/10 - lovely! They said we were the nicest audience they'd ever had and we just sat and clapped politely so I felt a bit bad if they'd never had better, but Do What You Like was great anyway & they still sound like Tracy Chapman meets Kate Nash meets Magic Numbers.
Herman Dune - 4/10 - I missed I Wish That I Could See You Soon and only caught their boring last song so their score suffered greatly for this
Bat For Lashes - 9/10 - gorgeous and lovely! I want to be her! More songs like Prescilla would be good as others were less good
Remi Nicole - 8/10 - Go Mr Sunshine and Rock'n'Roll are brilliant, but I'm not sure she'll be a huge star
CSS - 10/10 - full of personality and colour and super-aceness! Their music sounded great and got everyone in a party atmosphere in the sunshine
I'm From Barcelona - 100/10 - yes that is meant to say 100, as IFB were absolutely amazing! Everyone agreed and there was a huge crush for merchandise at the end, with everyone from young children to their dads walking off looking dazed by the brilliance and grinning from ear to ear saying things like "absolutely outstanding!" and "best band of the festival!" - I think that was a success then!
The Good, The Bad and The Queen - 2/10 - awful.

Sunday
The Hoosiers - 5/10 - boring except Worried About Ray
Hello Saferide - 10/10 - surely the least ugly band in the whole world? Brilliant lyrics and catchy tunes too.
Scouting For Girls - 6/10
Charlotte Hatherley - 7/10 - turns out I wad right not to bother with anything but Bastardo and Kim Wilde, as the rest were quite average compared to their aceness
Cold War Kids - 4/10 - even Hang Me Up To Dry wasn't all that exciting
Camera Obscura - 7/10 - like last time I saw them they wasted their 2 best songs (Lloyd... and If Looks Could Kill) by playing them together in the middle of the set, those 2 track being amazing but the rest a bit boring
The Rapture - 2/10 - the music is OK but ruined by the singer and the lack of hooks or any distinction between one song and the next
The Hot Puppies - 8/10 - ace new band in the vein of Long Blondes, will definitely be keeping an eye on these ladies
Jarvis Cocker - 7/10 - didn't do any Pulp songs but got everyone singing along with Cunts Are Still Running The World and a cover of Eye of the Tiger!
Arcade Fire - 10/10 - a band I'd wanted to see live for ages and they didn't disappoint, with Rebellion being completely amazing and Tunnels and Wake Up were great too, especially with the crowd doing the "OHHH-OHHH"s in the latter - a perfect last song for the festival!
Thursday, July 12, 2007

Thoughts Of The Day

1. Maybe Robyn won't be no.1 after all - I haven't heard her on the radio or seen the video on TV for about a week now. Robyn Mania did not last long, it seems.
2. Why isn't the Cherry Ghost single in the top 40 when the album's doing so well and it's getting lots of airplay on Radio 1 and 2 and local radio?
3. The new song by The Enemy is clearly the U.G.L.Y for 2007 - hey-ey, hey-ey, what's the matter with ya fa-ace, fa-ace?

New Pop On The Block

Shayne Ward - If That's OK With You (Audio)
How how HOW is it possible that the new Shayne Ward single sounds like Akon? It's completely insane. Quite catchy though! Better than any of the ballads off his last album, except maybe No Promises (but even that wasn't as good as the original by some Danish bloke called Brian). It's a bit like the male equivalent of Stars Are Blind by Paris Hilton, although Shayne can actually sing. I'm just not sure if Akon fans will get on board... then again anyone who likes Akon can't be the most difficult to fool into thinking something is cool, so it might just work. Probably not though...
80% Poptastic!

KT Tunstall - Hold On (Live)
I'm not a huge fan of KT, although I don't dislike her either, but I really enjoyed listening to this new single. You can't help but bop to it and her voice sounds really strong and powerful. This could definitely be the new Black Horse and the Cherry Tree, as it's just as big and busy-sounding, with lots of hand-claps in the live version at least. Apparently the video will involve robot dancing, but that's all I know so far. It seems KT may not be just a one-album wonder after all, but only time will tell if her success will be lasting on both sides of the Atlantic or if her distinctive style will mean she is too pigeon-holed to develop and keep up with music trends.
83% Poptastic!

Only on the verge of something wonderful...

You may have noticed that despite my no.1 fave singer ever, Darren Hayes, having a new album on the way this summer, I haven't exactly been going on about it like I normally would. I suppose I've just not been driven to excitement by any of the songs I've heard so far. Of course they are good songs and for the average pop fan this would be enough, but I expect more from Darren - he has the power to grab me, to move me with his music, and these songs just haven't done that yet, or at least not to the extent which his music consistently has in the past. I want to love his new songs but I listen to them and as much as I do like them, they just don't sound as special as songs like Pop!ular, Affirmation, To The Moon And Back - I could continue to list every single, album track and even b-side he's done, each one having a special place in my heart.

These new songs are certainly good, better than almost everything else around... but only almost! Usually a new song by Darren would automatically be my favourite of the moment. They're not quite outstanding, they don't stand out to me as a new step forward for Darren, and they don't show off his beautiful voice, which normally makes my heart swell with adoration. He has the ability to make those heart-stopping amazing pop moments, and he isn't using it. Darren is normally above categorisation, he usually manages to do electro-pop and mumsy ballads without seeming like someone uncool trying to be cool, but now he is getting a bit 'dad at the disco' and it's quite a shame - hopefully the songs will either grow on me or he'll have his usual brilliance hidden away on the album.

I know Darren reads this blog sometimes, so I would tell him to put some ace tracks on the album, but I guess it's probably too late to affect that now, so instead I'll make do with ordering him to play some gigs in Sweden this autumn - I may be a bit disappointed with his new music, but I still don't want to miss out on a Darren tour for the first time since his solo career began!
Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Swedes in Japan - my 2 favourite countries meet!

I just found a really interesting Swedish TV documentary (with English subtitles) online, about two Swedish guys who write songs for Japanese pop bands, and get the chance to visit Japan to write with Japanese production teams and see first-hand the effect their music has on its adoring fans. It's also really helpful for me as I'm learning Swedish to follow along the words with the subtitles.

The craziness of the Japanese fans makes me sad that we no longer have that in this country - kids are quite blasé about their favourite acts these days, often treating them as fashions that'll be in and out in a few months. In Japan the girls really throw themselves into their devotion and it may be slightly scary in its commercialism, but they do look so happy and excited and it brings the girls together, so I really don't think it's a bad thing. From my own experience, I've made lovely friends through being a fan of an artist, although I never went travelling around the country to follow anyone, but it shows the potential of being a fan to bring great things into a young person's life. Maybe it is just rich old blokes cynically making money out of the naivety of young girls, but if they enjoy it then does it really matter?
Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Next Big Thing?

Guns'n'Bombs
Not the best name considering recent events (or perhaps that's the point), but I've really enjoyed bopping along to the remixes on their MySpace as I surf the net. It's not the sort of music I'd listen to while not doing anything else, but it's great background music. One of them (Filip Turbotito) used to be in Junior Senior and they're often compared to Justice, although I'm not that keen on the latter's output so far.
Hit Potential: 60% Poptasticness: 65%

Rosie Oddie & the Odd Squad
I know I shouldn't judge on first impressions but I instantly hated Rosie Oddie as soon as I heard the talky bit on Genni's Song on her MySpace. Her speaking voice and personality were quite repellant, not to mention her use of the word "wack" (or however that is spelt). She is the daughter of wildlife bloke Bill Oddie - but why does this qualify her to be a singer? Her music is OK but nothing special, so I hope she doesn't get treated as though her famous relative makes her any better than any other quirky indie-pop girl. I'll be sticking with Kate Nash, Remi Nicole and Laura Marling, thanks.
Hit Potential: 55% Poptasticness: 60%

Leon Lopez
Does any new artist not have a celebrity link these days? At least this one gained the celebrity status for himself, although he's hardly a megastar - he's been in Hollyoaks In The City and took part in the last series of Soapstar Superstar, getting voted off early despite being one of the better singers, so he obviously isn't particularly popular. Who thought giving him a record deal was a good idea? He's not the new Martin McCutcheon, not even the new Adam Rickett! Most embarrassingly, he thinks he's the new Lemar.
Hit Potential: 5% Poptasticness: 20%

And that's what everyone's talkin bout!

When I first heard Girlfriend by Avril Lavigne, it was love at first listen, even though I had previously despised Avril. Resistance was futile, as the high school bitch attitude and catchy chants drew me in... but there was another reason: the song had a strange familiarity to it, but I knew it wasn't a cover and couldn't think of any particular song it sounded like, so I forgot about it and got on with my "Hey! Hey! You! You!"s. This morning I came across an article accusing her of plagiarising a song called I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend by The Rubinoos. I'd never heard that song so thought nothing of it, until I heard it played on Radio 1 this afternoon (they were comparing the two songs, with very conclusive results - they're almost identical in the chorus) and realised that I did know this song, and couldn't place it until I Googled the lyrics and learnt the brilliant truth: Avril has ripped off the acest twee-pop band of the 90s, LUSH!

Here you can listen to the super-duper Lush song, and here's a comparison of Avril and the Rubinoos.
Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Next Big Thing?

Justin Nozuka
I'm not sure if he's actually famous in his home country of Canada, but Justin's acoustic-soul style could go down very well with fans of James Morrison. His new single Mr Therapy Man is my least favourite on his MySpace, but it's not terrible (in fact it sounds like Hanson!) - I just like the others better, especially Golden Train, which is delicate and sweet with a lovely chorus reminding me of Ari Hest. I've seen him on The Box, and I think if Radio 2 picks up on him he could have some success, but not with this single. We'll have to wait and see if the record label give him a chance to release something better.
Hit Potential: 65% Poptasticness: 70%

Flamboyant Bella
They're unsigned but releasing an EP and seem to have a big following on MySpace. Get A Reaction is a bit drum and bass-esque for me, but the sound is at least different to other electro-pop. Second Minute Hour is an actual pop ballad duet, which is really nice and interesting, Absolutely Wankered reminds me bizarrely of the boyband V, while Crazy Cool and My Skies are great fun duet pop, a bit Alphabeat. I think My Skies is my favourite - in fact their earlier work (see also Absolutely Wankered and Crazy Cool) is generally better. They're not quite polished enough yet for super-stardom but with a record deal and some money behind them they could be great.
Hit Potential: 55% Poptasticness: 85%

Top 10 of 2007 so far

We're halfway through the year, so it's time to round up my favourites so far. It's all very much subject to change, but each of these songs still sounds as great now as they did on first listen.

1. Rihanna - Umbrella
2. Robyn - With Every Heartbeat
3. E-Type - True Believer
4. Alphabeat - 10,000 Nights of Thunder
5. Måns Zelmerlöw - Cara Mia
6. Margaret Berger - Will You Remember Me Tomorrow
7. BWO - Chariots Of Fire
8. Patrick Wolf - The Magic Position
9. Magnus Carlsson - Live Forever
10. Rufus Wainwright - Going To A Town



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